There is no better time to move to Newfoundland and Labrador than right now, and immigration numbers prove it, says Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne.
A new strategy was launched on Friday to boost immigration to the province by roughly 50 per cent in the next five years.
The target is 1,700 immigrants per year by 2022 — despite a downturn in the economy and an increase in taxes and fees provincewide.
"Even in this economy — you could argue because of this economy — there are skillsets that are left unfulfilled and unanswered," Byrne said.
"The argument is actually made and effectively made, and effectively made, this is the best time to come to Newfoundland and Labrador."
While the province has upped its numbers in immigration, the retention rate has suffered.
A report by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council released this year shows only 40 per cent of immigrants remained in Newfoundland and Labrador 10 years after moving here.
Five years after moving, the study found 58 per cent of immigrants stayed in the province.
What's in the plan?
The plan features 39 initiatives, 24 of which are scheduled to kick off in the next year.
It features such things as promoting discussions of multiculturalism in the school system, sending delegates to more conferences around the world, and working more closely with employers around the province to identify areas of need.
The focus will still be on filling jobs with people from this province, but where a local solution can not be found, a foreign skilled worker will be sought.
In 2015, the province welcomed 1,122 new immigrants.
The strategy is funded to the tune of $8.9 million — $5.7 million from the provincial government, and the rest in federal funding.
The funds will be allocated from existing coffers, Byrne said, with no new money being budgeted.
Bringing people home
Included among the 39 initiatives is an effort to convince Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living elsewhere to return home.
The government will survey people who have left, asking their reasons for leaving and what it would take to bring them home.
Byrne said the effort will not include any "glitz and glamour" in terms of advertising campaigns. Instead, they will work to ensure expatriates are aware of any opportunities at home.
Despite the increasing cost of living and flailing economy, Byrne does not believe it will be a hard sell.
"If they want to come back, we'll provide them with an enticement," he said. "It's called living back home."